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Gravel-Pit Slide Hits Highway, Cars May Be Buried

May 19, 1995

WENATCHEE, Wash. (AP) _ A huge rockslide from a gravel pit sent tons of rock and dirt onto a highway, possibly burying vehicles or pit workers, authorities said.

``We’re pretty sure there’s some vehicles under here, from what some of the hysterical people who were here at the time of the slide have told us,″ said Deputy Fire Chief Don Perry in a hasty interview from the site about a mile south of here.

``So we’re feverishly trying to get earth moved to a point where we believe the vehicles may be located,″ he said.

The Wenatchee World newspaper reported that two people from the pit might be trapped, one of them a child of an employee who had been inside a small bus that the gravel company was using as an office.

Perry knew of no injuries, and nearby hospitals had not been told to prepare for emergency patients.

The rocks ranged in size from 2 inches to 10 feet, Perry said. Debris covered about 200 feet of the southbound lane of Highway 97A, which runs north-south along the Columbia River between Wenatchee and Chelan in the central part of the state.

The slide was 150-200 feet deep in places, the newspaper quoted witnesses as saying. The cause of the slide was not known.

A subcontractor had been operating a gravel-mining pit at the site, owned by Morrill Asphalt. Carol Hardy, a secretary in the company’s office in Wenatchee, said she had been told not to disclose the subcontractor’s name.

The state Transportation Department had equipment and flaggers at the scene, and several contractors rushed heavy equipment there, said Luther Beaty, the department’s regional maintenance superintendent.

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